The Red-White game is in the books, and fans now have to wait months for football again. We now begin the summer drought of no football until August 31 when Utah opens the 2017 season against North Dakota. With spring football in the books, we thought we would take a step back and come up with three takeaways.
Don’t Read Too Much Into It
The defense is always ahead of the offense in spring. The offense is breaking in a new system, and offensive coordinator Troy Taylor was not calling plays for both teams. Many starters also sat out of the game. Utah has a lot of talent at tight end this year, but none of their starting tight ends participated. The offensive line did not have a very good game, but it was a patchwork line. It is also worth remembering that Utah is incredibly deep along the defensive line. The offensive line I feel is a group with a lot of talented starters but does not have a lot of experience yet, so the starters and backups need time to develop. Despite losing four starters from last season, Utah returns three offensive linemen with game experience (none of whom played on Saturday) in tackle Jackson Barton, guard Salesi “Leka” Uhatafe, and center Lo Falemaka. Overall, it was just the spring game. The Utes have plenty of time to gel along the offensive line this summer and in fall camp. They also get quite a few players in who could push for playing time at defensive back (Jaylon Johnson, Tareke Lewis, Javelin Guidry, and Marquise Blair) and offensive skill positions (TJ Green and Bryan Thompson).
Utah Has Talent at Running Back
Okay, so I know the first point was don’t read too much into the game, but having said that, I do think there are a few things we can take away from the Red-White game and spring in general. One position group that I came away really impressed with was running back. Devonta’e Henry-Cole is a stud. He is a workhorse back that punishes defenders. He is tough to bring down and has good moves and quickness. One other thing I like about Henry-Cole is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He will be a weapon for the Utah offense this year and beyond. Zack Moss appeared to suffer an injury in the game, but he is another talented back for the Utah offense. Moss did not get as many carries in the game as Henry-Cole, but we know a bit more about him since he played more as a freshman last year. Moss is a big, powerful back. He also has good speed for his size.
There Will Be a Three-Way Quarterback Battle in Fall
Utah has four quarterbacks who participated in the spring game on Saturday: Troy Williams, Tyler Huntley, Cooper Bateman, and Drew Lisk. While Lisk has one nice touchdown pass, he struggled with accuracy the most in the game and had at least three interceptions dropped in addition to the one he threw. Williams, Huntley, and Bateman all brought something different to the table. Williams was the starter last season and is the likely frontrunner to start again this season. He was under constant pressure from the Red defensive line in the game. He has some accuracy issues in the game, but he also had several well thrown balls dropped by receivers. Huntley is the most athletic of the bunch and can hurt defenses with his legs. He showed he has a live arm with an impressive pass for a first down on a fourth and long. Bateman, who was playing largely against the third string defense, showed the most poise in the pocket (though he was under far less pressure than Williams and Huntley) and was the most accurate. Bateman has a big arm and can definitely sling the ball around the field. It is hard to gauge his performance against the other quarterbacks though since he did not face the same defense. This game will have little to no effect on the quarterback battle that I expect will not be resolved until deep into fall camp or even until the game against North Dakota. Refer back to the first takeaway as it applies to the quarterback battle.
Overall, the Red-White game is a fun game for the fans. It was a day with great weather and an excited game. There were some big plays from the offense and some punishing hits from the defense. Take everything from spring with a grain of salt and just enjoy that it was the last action open to the public at Rice-Eccles Stadium until the end of August.